A Complete History Of Arson


let me tell you about the dream in which

you told me you were lying when

you said you’d stopped loving me.

or maybe

just the dream where in sleep

i get to finally stop thinking about your lies.

let me tell you about how you aren’t my first thought

in the morning anymore

how i’m teaching my mind to stop wanting to tell you anything at all

teaching my body that you’re just a phantom limb;

to stop reaching for you just to find only air

because now, in your absence, i can finally breathe.

i would tell you what i learned

when i Googled the word ‘gaslighting’

but i think you wrote the definition

and now i’m confused and spinning and unlearning

everything i thought i knew: soft and crumbling in my hands

is love nothing more than a chopping block disguised

as an altar disguised as a boy worth getting on

your knees and laying down your

life for?

i am tired of keeping my head down

of waiting for the axe to fall

i am tired of scrubbing my blood out of your shirts

trying to wash out the red like cleansing or denial

like offering rebirth to a dead thing, and yet

still, everything you touch comes back stained and holy

and some nights i wish you’d never touched me at all.

let me tell you about how i built a new house

but sometimes i swear i can still smell the smoke

sometimes i find myself looking for fire

waiting for fire

and i can’t sleep until i’ve double checked the smoke alarm works

because i’m determined not to ignore any more warnings.

i am in a kind of limbo;

i am so close to uncaring

yet it is so hard not to hate you

when i’m always so fucking scared

i spent so long in a kind of oblivious purgatory,

always running scared to you

never realizing that it was you

i should have been afraid of.

let me tell myself that i am done being afraid

but my syntax still carries the aftertaste of apology

burning my lips even as it leaves them

this is how you set fires

this is an unnameable destruction

this is tiring of thinking of myself as


i am simply rebuilt

i am simply taking up residency in myself for a


the paint on the walls

the new pronunciations of home

that don’t sound like your name

what i lost in the fire

was a version of myself i had been

taught ever since

my induction into girlhood:

the apology tucked beneath the tongue for safekeeping

the spaces between sentences the silences the red noise

the things we aren’t supposed to talk about

the things the men do to us the things the men don’t believe

the generations of bruises and blind eyes

and hands in all the wrong places

my grandmother was tired

of the blood-dried intimacy of her husband’s fists

of years and years of beer-stained hands

clasped over her mouth

until all of her sentences tasted of his lies

she took all of that rage

and she set his van on fire

which is to say that to be a girl

is to be tired and overflowing with flames

is to boil with the blood of the ancestral brave

you may have been holding the matches this time,

you may even think this means you have won

but i am cleansed and reborn

i am accepting the endings i am full of beginnings

i am soft and bright and new

and smoking at the edges

and once you have survived the wildfire

it can never burn your house down